The Government today gave the go-ahead for two major offshore wind farms to be built in the Thames Estuary.
The London Array and Thanet schemes together total 1.3GW of green electricity, enough to power a third of London's three million households when fully operational. They will make a significant contribution to the Government's ambition - set out in the Energy Review - to deliver a five-fold increase in the UK's renewable energy resource by 2020.
Commenting on the consent decisions, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Alistair Darling said:
"Together, once built, they will mark a significant stride towards our renewables target. It is a significant step forward in providing a greener and clean source of power.
"Britain is second only to Denmark in the offshore wind sector and projects such as the London Array, which will be the biggest in the world when completed, and Thanet underline the real progress that is being made.
"Achieving rapid growth in offshore renewables is essential if we are to reduce carbon emissions and improve the security of our energy supplies. The changes we have proposed to the Renewables Obligation in the Energy Review will give additional incentives to the development of marine energy."
Environment Secretary David Miliband added:
"We expect this announcement will be the first of a number of large-scale offshore wind farms in the UK and will provide real impetus for the continued developments in the offshore renewable energy sector that will benefit generations to come.
"By issuing the licences to build the world's largest offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary we are re-enforcing the UK's commitment to renewable energy and combating climate change and ocean acidification. Working with the developers and those engaged in the broader environmental debate throughout the challenging application process ensured that all the environmental issues were addressed, as well as the impacts to the marine environment."
The London Array will consist of 341 turbines - each capable of generating between 3-7MW - five offshore sub-stations and four meteorological masts. They will rise from the sea 20km off the Kent and Essex coasts and will occupy an area 232KM 2 in size stretching between Margate and Clacton.
Welcoming the consent decision, James Smith, Chair of Shell UK said on behalf of the developer's consortium:
"The London Array offshore wind farm will make a crucial contribution to the UK's renewable energy targets. We're delighted to have received the DTI's consents today. I also welcome the Government's commitment, made during the recent Energy Review, to adapt the Renewables Obligation. This will enable the commercialisation of technologies such as offshore wind that can deliver the larger scale projects required for emissions targets to be met. Moreover, the Government's decision to reform the planning system for major energy infrastructure projects will help ensure a balance is struck between the national interest and local concerns."
The £500 million Thanet wind farm will be located approximately 11.3km (7 miles) from North Foreland on the Kent coast and its 100 turbines will occupy an area of around 35km2. The project, led by developer, Warwick Energy, is being fast-tracked for delivery in 2008 and expects to provide electricity for around 240,000 homes.
Commenting on the day's positive outcome, the Director of Warwick Energy Mark Petterson said: "We are pleased that the Defra and DTI consents have been granted. The emphasis must now be on the timely delivery of new renewable energy capacity to make a real impact on CO2 emissions. We urge all involved to stay focussed on the important tasks ahead.'
Both projects consented today will also bring significant economic opportunities to the local communities and to UK businesses.